How Greek Mythology Influences Contemporary Times English Literature Essay
Classical mythology represents the beliefs, the religion, and the culture of an antique society. It is part of the archaic period of the ancient Greeks. Greek mythology seems to be excessively remote from our modern era; however, it is still applicable to our current times. In fact, many famous movies or fiction stories of today are an update of myths or tales of Greek mythology. The very new science fiction movie, Avatar, by James Cameron is a great depiction of how Greek mythology influences our contemporary times. First, Jake faces a problem that needs to be solved. Second, he has a “call to adventure”. Third, he meets “helpers.” Then, he goes through the “threshold of adventure,” followed by the “sacred marriage.” After that, he faces “death” and “resurrection”. Finally, he receives his “rewards”. According to Joseph Campbell, this patterns or motifs are the same ones the antique heroes follow, which means that Greek mythology is the foundation of every modern heroic story, case in point, Avatar.
This story takes place in the planet of Pandora. The planet is rich in many natural resources, especially in unoptanium, a highly valued mineral in earth. The higher source of this mineral in under Hometree; the habitat for a tribe of native indigenous people called the Na’vis. The native indigenous are humanoids with catlike eyes and blue skin. The hero of the story, Jake Sully, is a paraplegic war veteran. He cannot walk. He is ordered by Colonel Miles Quaritch, the first antagonist of the movie, to convince the Na’vis to leave their home in three months and in return he will obtain his legs back. Jakes’ plan is to familiarize with these people by using the identity of a Na’vi and then convince them to leave their home. However, he suddenly starts feeling as part of these people. He falls in love with Naytiri, an indigenous woman, and the tribe. He feels that his life as a human is a dream and his life as a Na’vi is the reality. Consequently, he forgets his mission, but there was Colonel Miles Quaritch to remind him his real task. Quaritch starts a battle by destroying the tree of voices a very valuable place for the Na’vis. After this attack Jake changes his quest to defending the Na’vis, and with the help of Eywa, the goddess of nature, he gets the victory.
This fictional hero story shares many motifs with classical mythology. The first motif would be the fact that most heroes are demigods, meaning part human part God. For example, Heracles was the son of Alcmena, the princess of Mycenae, but his father was Zeus. Similar to Heracles, Theseus is a demigod. He is the son of Aethra, princess of Toezen, and Poseidon, the god of the sea. Moreover, Perseus was the son of Danae, the princess of Argo, and Zeus. On the other hand Jake was an Avatar or Hybrid, part human part Na’vi. An Avatar is created from the combination of Na’vis and human’s DNA. All these heroes are part human part another species. This demonstrates how classical mythology is applicable to our contemporary society.
A second motif is that support that classical mythology is relevant today is the problem that every hero faces. In this case, Heracles, one of the most famous heroes of the ancient Greeks, is a good model. The conflict starts when the goddess Hera, who hates Heracles, drives him angry. This anger forces him to kill his wife Megara and his own children. As a result, he seeks for way to expiate his dreadful act. On the other hand, Jason, another hero of ancient times, wants to get his throne back. Pelias, Jason’s uncle, takes over the throne that belongs to Jason’s father, Aeson. When Jason grows up he decides to get his throne. Addtionally, Theseus, one more hero of classical mythology, wants to stop the Minataur, a monster, from feeding on his people, the Athens. This monster is the son of the king of Crete, Minos. He declares war against many places in order to feed the Minataur and one of those places is Athen. The Athens do not want war, as a result, they decide to pay tribute to Crete every nine years. The tribute is seven Athenian boys and seven Athenian girls that will be eaten by the Minatour. The second time the Athens pay tribute to Crete, the son of the king, Theseus, decides to go as one of the seven boys selected for this tribute. As a result he has to kill the Minatour or it will eat him. Moreover, Perseus, wants Medusas head, after promising the king Polydectes that he will obtain it for him. Perseus lives in Seriphos. One day the king of this island, Polyctedes, celebrates a banquet in which all the man have to bring him a horse, however, Perseus offers to bring Medusa’s head instead of the horse and the king accepted his offer. Therefore, he has to do as he promised the king. Lastly, Jake is an ex Marine. He is injured in a battle on earth; accordingly, he is paralyzed from the waist down. As a veteran he receives some benefits, but not enough to get his legs back. Consequently, he wants to get money to get the treatment for his legs. As everyone perceives, all the heroes are facing different situations that need to be changed and Jake is not the exception. This demonstrates how Greek mythology is mother of all modern heroes.
Another motif Avatar shares with the heroes of classical mythology is the call to adventure. For instance, Heracles’ call to adventure occurs when he seeks purification. Heracles goes to Delphi, one of the most outstanding oracles of Greek mythology, to learn how to amend the terrible act of killing his wife and children. Delphi tells him that the only way to amend his deeds is by serving Eurytheus, Heracles’ cousin, for twelve years. Thus, Heracles’ call to adventure is delivered by the famous oracle, Delphi. On the other hand, Jason’s call to adventure is delivered by Pelias, his uncle. As mentioned before, Jason wants his throne back from Pelias. Pelias tells Jason that he will get his throne back if he brings him the Golden Fleece, which is under the care of a serpent and belongs to Aeetes, the king of Colchis. Furthermore, Perseus’ call to adventure occurs when the king, Polyctedes, accepts his proposal of getting the gorgons head. The gorgons were three horrifying creatures that turn the ones that saw their faces into stones. Two of them were immortal and the only mortal was Medusa. Therefore, Jason’s adventure is to cut Medusa’s head and give it to king Polyctedes. Lastly but not least, Jakes’ call to adventure occurs when the RDA (a powerful organization with an expedition in Pandora) offers him his brother’s job in Pandora for a very large amount of money. Jake’s brother is Tom Sully, as scientist. He is killed. For this reason the RDA asks Jake to take his position. Jake doubts about taking the position, but as soon as they tell him the amount of money he will be making by working for them, enough money to cure his legs, he accepts the position. This again reveals that Greek mythology is a great resource for the creation of our modern heroes. If one reads about these fictional heroes one notices what they have in common; they all have different situations but they all have a call to adventure. However, the call to adventure is not the only motif Avatar shares with the tales of classical mythology.
A different motif this fictional story shares with the myths of ancient Greece is the helpers. Every hero in classical mythology acquires the help from a goddess, a mentor, or a human with higher power to achieve his quest. Heracles goes through many adventures, thus, he has the help of many. When Heracles went to Eurytheus, he gives him a total of 12 labors. During the first labor he does not get any help. On the other hand, during his second labor he gets the help of Iolaus, the son of Iphicles, his nephew. He helps Heracles kill the Lernean Hydra, a serpent. Every time a head is removed from this serpent two would grow back. Thus Iolaus helps Heracles by stumping with fire, every time Heracles cuts a head of the serpent. Heracles also gets help in his sixth labor, but this time he gets help from the goddess Athena. In this labor he has to drive away a huge amount of Stymphalian birds from Arcadia. Athena helps by giving him brazen castanets. When Heracles attacks the birds with it they all flew away. Another Hero that gets help is Jason. Jason is ordered by Pelias to get the Golden Fleece, only this way he would get his father’s throne back. Jason gets the helps of Medea, the daughter of king Aeetes and a sorceress, to get the Golden Fleece. Medea helps him by giving him a drug and unguent. Jason uses the drug to make the serpent that guards the Golden Fleece unconscious. The unguent protects him from the fire. After Jason gets the Golden Fleece, Medea also helps him get rid of King Pelias. Pelias refuses to give Jason the throne back after getting the Golden Fleece. As a result, Media tricks the daughters of Pelias by showing them how to rejuvenate their father by shopping him and then boil him in a cauldron with herbs. The daughters of Pelias do everything, except to add the herbs; therefore, Pelias boils until he dies. Similar to Jason, Theseus gets the help from a king’s daughter, Aridane. She is the daughter of king Minos and she helps him kill the Minataur. She helps him by giving him a sword and a spool of string. Theseus uses the sword to kill the Minataur and the string to find his way out of the labyrinth where the Minataur lives. Moreover, Perseus gets the help of Athena, Hermes, the Graeae, and the nymphs to get the Medusa’s head. Athena gives him a polished shield; Hermes gives him a scimitar, the Graeae tells him were the nymphs are, the nymphs give him a cap of invisibility, a pair of winged sandals, and a kibisis. Perseus uses the polished shield to avoid looking at Medusa’s face; instead he looks at her reflection on the shield. He uses the scimitar to cut Medusa’s head, the Kibisis to deposit the head in it, and the cap of invisibility to escape from the other gorgons. Lastly, Jake gets the help of Neytiri, one of the indigenous of Pandora, the daughter of the patriarch of a tribe. Neytiri is ordered by her father to teach him to be one of his people. He also gets help from Eywa, the deity of Pandora. Neytiri helps Jake by teaching him the Na’vis’ way of living. She also saves him from dying two times. In the beginning of the movie when viper wolves attack Jake, she kills them and at the end when Quatrich attack Jake and she kills him as well. Eywa helps Jake by making the native wildlife of Pandora fight with Quatrich’s soldiers. As one can see Jakes receives helps just like the herores of classical mythology. This again demonstrates that Greek mythology is the origin of our modern fictional stories.
Another motif that demonstrates that Classical mythology is the origin of our modern frictional story is the sacred marriage. Many ancient heroes either marries with their helpers or someone they rescue. For instance, Jason marries Medea his helper. Originally, Medea helps Jason because she falls in love with him. As a result, after Media treasons her father Aeetes by helping Jason gets his the Golden Fleece, she leaves her country with him in the ship of Argo. After they leave Colchis, the Colchians follow them. According to some versions of the story the ship goes to the land of the Phaeacians, where Media appeals to queen for protection from the Colchians. However the king claims that he will not give them protection if they do not marry. They marry in this island and the Colchians stop following them. On the other hand, Perseus marries the princess of Ethiopia, Andromeda, after rescuing her from a sea monster. As a result of Cassiepea’s arrogance, Andromeda’s mother, Poseidon flooded the island and sent a sea monster. Andromeda’s father Cepheus, tries to satisfy the monster by offering her to it chained to a rock. Perseus agrees to kill the monster to marry her. After her kills the monster, he also kills Adromeda’s uncle because she was to be married with him before she was offered to the monster. After, he rescues her he marries her and stays with her forever. Lastly, Jake mates with Neytiri, one of his helpers, forever. As Neytiri teaches Jake the way of living of the Na’vis, she complete falls in love with him. In addition, Jake falls in love with her too. As a result they choose each other and mated before Eywa. This is the way the Na’vis marries. This means that our modern heroes are a modern copy of the heroes of classical mythology. This again demonstrates how classical mythology influences our modern times.
Another motif that demonstrates how our modern times are influence by Greek mythology is the awards heroes always get at the end of their journey. For example, Heracles dies after his second wife; Deinara thinks he is been disloyal to her. She tries to get him back by pouring the poisoned blood of a centaur in a rope the loved, and then giving the rope to Heracles. When Heracles puts the rope on it burns him to death. Subsequent to Heracles’ death, he becomes immortal due to all his labors. In addition he marries Hebe, the goddess of youth and the daughter of Zeus and Hera. On the other hand, after Jake performs his task he receives many things. When Neytiri kills the first antagonist (Quatrich) of the movie, the war ends. The rest of the human are sent back to earth with the exception of some. Jakes stays in avatar eternally and under the trees of soul his spirit is transferred from his human body to his avatar. As a result, Jake does not only receives his legs, he gains a whole new body, a wife and honor. Like Heracles Jake gets a whole new life after his human death. This again demonstrates that classical mythology is relevant to this contemporary time.
Finally, classical mythology forms many of the characters of our modern heroes. It also forms society’s point of view of a hero. Society views anyone that helps someone like Perseus helped Andromeda is a hero. It also views anyone that kills horrendous beasts like Heracles and Theseus to help humankind a hero; anyone that loves their children like Jason, anyone that helps our world be better place. For example, firefighters, rightful police officers, doctors, teachers, responsible parents and even friends sometimes deserve the title of a hero. This demonstrates that classical mythology influences our modern society in a very meaningful way. It means that Greek mythology never die, it is still alive in our modern times through the stories, through the cultures, through the points of view, through Psychology.
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